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A recent complaint about Trinchero Family Estates product, Ménage à Trois Midnight, was upheld by the Independent Complaints Panel. A copy of the full decision is available here.

Each time a new Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks is introduced, the Portman Group commissions an independent audit of the market to measure compliance. In 2019, the Portman Group introduced the sixth edition of the Code of Practice and commissioned Zenith Global to carry out an audit of 500 products which were randomly selected from the market. Zenith Global was concerned that Ménage à Trois Midnight might breach of the Code of Practice. The full audit report is due to be published in Spring 2020.

During the audit, Zenith Global expressed concern that the product name and the text on the rear of the bottle which mentions ‘satisfying your deepest desires’ and ‘turning out the lights and savouring the pleasures of the dark’, created a link between the product and sex. Therefore, they felt the product breached Code rule on not directly or indirectly linking a product to sexual activity or sexual success.

Reviewing the product in detail, the Panel noted:

  • Given the sexual connotations of the name, a producer using Ménage à Trois would have to work much harder to ensure it was not making a direct link to sex.
  • While the phrase Ménage à Trois is commonly known to be linked to sexual activity, it can also be used figuratively, and so the name was not inherently problematic on its own.
  • The producer deliberately made a link to sex on their label description, highlighting phrases like ‘…savour the pleasures of the dark’, which connected the name of the product to sex.

In conclusion, the Panel believed the combination of the description on the label and the name made a link to sex. They urged the producer to remove the text on the bottle which gave the name a sexual meaning. For this reason, the complaint was upheld under Code paragraph:

  • 3.2(d) A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with sexual activity or sexual success.

Commenting on the decision the Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel, Jenny Watson, said:

“In this case, the Panel urged the producer to avoid linking the sexual meaning of the name to the product and remove the text description on the bottle which did this. The Panel’s decision is a reminder to all producers that care must be taken when marketing a product to ensure that it does not draw direct links between the product and sexual activity”.

Also commenting on the decision, Trinchero Family Estates said:

“Although we do not agree with the Panel’s interpretation under the Code, we respect the Panel’s view and will undertake to revise the label to remove the mentioned references.”

ENDS

For more information please contact:

Nicola Bates or Anna Liveing

0207 290 1463 or 07730 525 701 or comms@portmangroup.org.uk

Notes to editors:

  1. The full decision from the Independent Complaints Panel is available on the Portman Group’s website.
  2. The Portman Group’s Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks applies to all pre-packaged alcoholic drinks and the promotional activities of all drinks producers. A copy of the Code may be downloaded here.
  3. This complaint was considered under the sixth edition of the Code of Practice.
  4. The Independent Complaints Panel is headed by Jenny Watson CBE a former Chair of the Electoral Commission and Chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission. The Panel is drawn from a range of civic society who has worked in education, youth work, charity, criminal justice, health, marketing, hospitality and the alcohol industry. It is this mix of views and experiences which provides them with the authority to jointly provide a considered view on complaints based on the Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks. The members of the panel can be found here.
  5. Since the Code was introduced in 1996, the packaging and/or marketing of over 150 drinks have been found to breach the Code. In the case of a Code breach concerning a drink’s packaging or point-of-sale material, a timetable for implementing the necessary changes – not normally exceeding three months – will be supplied in writing to the company concerned. Retailers may be notified of the decision taken by the Independent Complaints Panel and requested not to replenish stocks or point-of-sale material of any product found in breach of the Code, after the date specified by the Code Secretariat.
  6. The Portman Group provides a free and confidential Advisory Service for alcohol producers to check products prior to launch and seek advice on responsible alcohol marketing. Over 2000 separate advice requests have been answered since 2010.  Email: advice@portmangroup.org.uk.
  7. The Portman Group is the alcohol industry regulator. It has over 130 code signatories from producers, retailers and membership bodies. The Portman Group is funded by eight member companies: Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands UK; Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I; Carlsberg UK; Diageo GB; Heineken UK; Mast-Jäegermeister UK; Pernod Ricard UK.
  8. A high resolution image of Ménage à Trois Midnight is available on request.